Maine Adaptive Sports: Where Skiing Can Be Fun (Even For The Slightly Terrified)

Wheelchair battery? Check. Medical supplies (and lots of them)? Check.  Medications? Check. Go Pro? Check.  Ski gear and warm clothes? Check.  The dog bed, dog food, and the dog? Check!

It took me an entire day to get the gear together for five of us to head north, and we set off with no small amount of trepidation, given that extreme cold temperatures were forecast for Maine on a recent February weekend.

photoWas it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

Check out her video here (thanks Go Pro!).

IMG_1445Marianne has skied for years with Maine Adaptive Sports at Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine.  So have others who are veterans, paraplegics, amputees, and the blind.  She has skied with many of the same volunteers, year after year, who welcome her (and us) back like long-lost friends.  Maine Adaptive Sports is fortunate enough to have a dedicated lodge, slope-side, with plenty of parking.  All the equipment Marianne needs is right here – including helmet, goggles, hand warmers even!  They make it downright EASY for you to get on the slopes.

IMG_1429Like a well-oiled machine, Maine Adaptive volunteers get their skiers on the slopes by 9 am, and they keep them going until lunch time.  Skiers can sign up in advance for a half-day of skiing or a full-day (see the website for on-line forms).  Sunday River management has some restrictions on the program;  for example, the handicap program runs only on Sunday (not Saturday) on a regular weekend, and there are some limits during school vacation weeks.  However, skiers and their volunteers ski for free on the day of their lesson (no small thing given the price of single-day lift tickets).

IMG_4140Our first ski experience with Marianne, many moons ago, was at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.  I found the mountain slightly crazed, packed with careening skiers heading pell mell down the main run, while music blared from unseen speakers.  The handicap ski program was in the main lodge (that may have changed by now), and you had to get in line with everyone else to use the only-somewhat-accessible bathroom.  Same story with parking – you’re in the mosh pit with everyone else.  Having to compete with the teeming (although happy) masses for bathrooms, parking, and yes, even air space, means added maneuvering for wheelchair users.  And extra work. And compounded stress.

IMG_1442Sunday River can be a bit of a drive if you live near Boston.  But it is so worth it to get to this big (lots of runs and they stay on top of snow-making), family-friendly (yet challenging for those like their thrills!) resort, especially because of Maine Adaptive’s beautiful launching space for skiers who use wheelchairs.

We’re lucky enough to stay with our extended family (who put a ramp in their condo for Marianne to support her skiing endeavors!) but Maine Adaptive Sports also maintains a list of lodging in the area:  Sunday River Lodging Directory.

IMG_4148Marianne was hesitant, really scared even, at first.  But now she is a skier, thanks to the hard-working staff and volunteers at Maine Adaptive.  She steers herself.  She’s been known to do a half-pipe or two. She’s wiped out with the best of them.  She skis with cousins Brendan and Rachel, Uncle Bob and Aunt Marcia, her brother, sister, dad.  Apres-ski? She definitely enjoys that hot chocolate and sense of personal satisfaction at the end of a long hard day of skiing.

Thanks to Maine Adaptive Sports – and Sunday River – for equalizing the world, one run, one day, at a time.



NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

Having Tea in Boston

DSC03386Boston, MA has a long history with England, as you most likely know.   Although we freed ourselves from her rule over 200 years ago, we have kept some of our legacy from across the pond, most notably perhaps, our predilection for tea (notwithstanding our equal and abiding love for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee).

This past summer, Marianne and I set to work reviewing high tea venues in Boston.  It’s hard work, but someone’s got to do it.

DSC03244Tea at The Reserve at The Langham Hotel is an elegant affair, served in a small, modern area off the main lobby, with ample space for a wheelchair to maneuver.  Tea is served between 2-7 pm, which makes it easy to meet friends after work for something other than a drink (although they do serve a champagne tea, too, should you so desire).   I found my tea weak, and I thought the selection was lacking.  $34 does get you a fairly good selection of sandwiches, very good scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, and desserts, as well as a pot of tea.  I’d give the food a solid 3.5 out of 5, 5 being the best.  The restroom had big heavy push doors (no electric door openers).  Moreover, the wheelchair-accessible stall was tight and awkward, although technically, it worked (except for the trash barrel, which was short and was opened by stepping on a foot pedal – not helpful if you use a chair).  If you enter from Franklin Street, there are handicap-accessible electric door buttons.  Parking is by valet, and the doorman was kind enough to let me leave my minivan right by the other hotel entrance.  Again however, as in the bathroom, the doors  are big and heavy – and have no electric openers.  You’re not far (less than .5 mile) from Faneuil Hall and their Boston National Historical Park’s Visitor Center, should you decide to make a day of it.

A late-summer afternoon tea at Rowe’s Wharf is a treat.  Tea is served at 2:30 pm inside, although we ordered ahead and my husband was able to eat what he described as one of the best lobster rolls he’s ever had (high praise coming from a connoisseur years in the making), while Marianne and I sampled the tea.  The price tag is steep, at $39, and I’d say the sandwiches, scones and desserts are on a par with the The Langham Hotel (so a rating of 3.5 out of 5).  Fairly predictable, except that Rowe’s Wharf tea does include a lobster pastry – nice twist on the seaside theme.  The waitress and valet actually bumped the experience up quite a few notches:  they both went out of their way to make Marianne’s experience pleasant, from letting us park near the fancy Maserati and Mercedes out front to personally escorting us to the handicap-accessible bathroom.  (As at The Langham, there were no electric door buttons for those using wheelchairs, but at least the bathroom was spacious.)  Another plus is that before or after lunch, you can roll and stroll for miles along the Boston Harborwalk (you can download a map here) and check out the New England Aquarium.  The Aquarium can be busy, but it’s a family favorite and we find that you can enjoy quiet visits (call ahead and ask the front desk what they suggest for quiet visiting times).

There’s more tea to sample: The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library,  the Four Seasons Hotel and The Taj (although I have some trepidation about this venue based on the precious Teddy Bear Tea advertised on the website).  Stay tuned.



A Small Slice of San Francisco

_SC03221Although Fisherman’s Wharf (home to San Francisco’s fishing fleet AND Ghirardhelli chocolates) is insanely crowded in August, at peak tourist season, I loved our hotel, the Argonaut, at the far end of the wharf.  Close enough to the madness of the Wharf if that’s what you want, but take a left out the front door and you’re at the gateway to the Presidio, 1400 acres of hills, woods, beaches and paths right on the bay.  There is lodging within the park called The Inn at the Presidio; click here for accessible accommodations.

There is no denying that the Argonaut Hotel is pricey, but it is centrally located for many tourist activities, and the whole place seems easily accessible, from the front door, to the lobby spaces, to the attached restaurant and its adjoining outdoor dining area, to about 4 or 5 ADA guest rooms. Not all have roll-in showers, so make sure to specify if that’s what you need. You can bring your dog, even if he or she is not a service dog.  This seems to be a West Coast/Southwest thing, and I love it.

IMG_3056A few small things (and its the small things that can add up to make or break a hotel stay):  the room windows actually open so you can get fresh air, the beds are not too soft, there are plenty of outlets for charging (wheelchairs, electronics), and the shower shampoo, conditioner and body wash are all in refillable containers mounted to the shower wall (I dislike the waste of the small travel-sized toiletries that so many hotels dispense).  We’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel and all are very good.  (I’m a rather tough restaurant critic, so that’s saying something.)

Adjoining the hotel is a national park visitor center (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park), with a park across the street (part of the National Park site). The visitor center is fully accessible and has multi-media displays covering San Franciso’s maritime history beginning with the early days of the native Americans, the Ohlene tribe. There is a walking tour, led by NPS guides, and if you contact them prior to your visit (even a day in advance), they will make sure the trail is wheelchair-friendly. I spoke with a park ranger who is on the accessibility board for the NPS, and she gave me a universal access guide to this particular park; you can get one here, although they are in the process of updating it.

_SC03236At the Argonaut Hotel and at the San Francisco Maritime NHS, you are within walking/rolling distance of the Presidio with views of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the fog, named Carl, or so we have been told, is not present). The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a separate park within the National Park Service, although you can get information, including a map and brochure, at the visitor center at the Argonaut Hotel.    We biked along the trail and much of it was paved (so good for wheelchair travelers) – although not all of it. You’d need to check online before you headed out to see where the trail becomes unusable by wheel.  I did find this link for trails just north of San Francisco and this one for accessible sections of the trail near the Golden Gate Bridge.

One note: don’t bother buying The Fodor’s guide to Northern California 2014 as it has no ADA info whatsoever, that I can see. The index has no listings for “accessibility” or “disability” or “wheelchair.” There’s not even a small nod to travelers using wheelchairs in the general information section. Seems like a glaring omission. How hard can it be to include whether a hotel has accessible accommodation?



Portland, Oregon: Just Visiting

IMG_3043Living all of my life in or near Boston, Massachusetts, I was certain I’d have an instant affinity for Portland, OR.  So much in common: oceans, city life, a liberal bent, a northern mentality…

I was wrong.  Much as I liked Portland, I just don’t fit in.  Seattle or San Francisco might take me in, but I’ll forever be a visitor to Portland.

For one thing, driving in Portland is like entering the Twilight Zone. There are road markings I’ve never seen in my life (the 2-foot wide green strip on the right side of the road couldn’t possibly be the bike lane, right?), bikers zoom at you out of nowhere and the pedestrians look like Zombies on parade, taking a break from their headphones and i-things to menace drivers with a single scowl.  The city has special and strange lines on the street for bus traffic  – I imagine bus travel is the third most-preferred form of travel (after foot and pedal) because it is so green.  The welcome sight of the highway warmed my speedy little Boston heart, and I vowed to return to Portland only on foot or wheel.

Second, true to the stickers you see everywhere – “Be nice- You’re in Oregon!” – the people are by and large very friendly (unless you’re a car driver sharing the road with a biker or pedestrian, maybe).  But the constant admonishment to “Be Nice – You’re in Oregon!” began to raise my ornery, Massachusetts, stand-offish hackles a wee bit.  When you say, “be nice” does that mean I have to talk to you and hear about your day, even though you are a stranger?  What more will you want from me?  Is this a scam or something?!

Last but not least, I have no hipster vibe or clothing.  No piercings or tats.   I do have a travel espresso mug (the coolness of which IS remarked upon by the barista from Oregon that works at my local Peet’s) but that hardly cuts it here.  I just don’t fit in.

But I’ll return, and you might consider a visit, too.  Here are some travel goods:

-We stayed at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland, which was a mistake.  It’s expensive, tacky, run down and noisy (both inside and out).  The hotel has made wheelchair modifications, but because it’s an old building, they are jerry-rigged.  There’s a lift but it’s squeezed into a corner, the halls are narrow and the elevators small, and the restaurant (which is only partially accessible) is crowded by tables and chairs. I am told there are rooms that meet ADA specifications.

– This is where I would stay:  the Ace Hotel.  Entrance is through the adjoining Stumptown’s front door – and wow, do they have fantastic coffee….and smiling baristas.  Cool downtown spot, with ample lobby seating and wheeling area in front of big plate glass windows (perfect for your Stumptown espresso and people watching).   Although there is only street parking, there is a garage two blocks down and the sidewalks are easily wheelchair accessible.  There are several wheelchair-accessible rooms (I couldn’t see any of them but I was told the showers are roll in with grab bars and the doorways meet ADA standards). Plus, pets are welcome! Woo hoo.

-Good coffee and breakfast at accessible Caffe Destino in Northeast Portland. Wheelchair accessible, with ADA parking spaces nearby. Walked one block over to Whole Foods  for lunch for our day trip to the Columbia River Gorge area.

-Troutdale (east of Portland on the Columbia River, on I-84) is about 40 minutes from the Whole Foods mentioned above and is and the beginning of Oregon’s scenic Route 30 drive.  Plenty of pull-outs for photos along the way, and a wheelchair-accessible rest stop called the Vista House at Crown Point. The Vista House has ADA parking spaces, is well-ramped, and has a lift from the first floor to the lower floor, where the photo gallery, gift shop and the rest rooms are.

We continued on the curving road through moss-laden Douglas fir trees (also known as Oregon pines) first to Multnomah Falls, part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (  The full loop can take 3-5 hours. Another option to doing the drive out and back along Route 30 is to take Route 35S, after the Hood River Exit 63, drive past Mount Hood, and then return to Portland.

– Another great lodging option outside of Portland proper is McMenamin’s Edgfield.  The McMenamin family has converted about half a dozen abandoned properties in the Portland area, and this one was formerly a Poor Farm, built around 1913. The property is almost completely wheelchair-accessible, including garden paths, a glass-blowing gallery, an outdoor cafe, the pool hall and game room on the basement level, the Black Rabbit restaurant, the gift shop and espresso bar, the first-floor bathroom and accessible hotel rooms. The building is ramped from the outside to the lower level, where a highly-decorated elevator brings you to floors one and two. All this and an outdoor concert space too! Although I didn’t see them, I am assured the accessible rooms have ADA-defined wide doors, roll-in showers and grab bars. There seem to be plenty of ADA parking spaces. There’s a lot to do here, and it’s a great gateway to the above-mentioned scenic drives. We had lunch at the Black Rabbit, and although it was so-so, the wait staff were attentive and the restaurant was easy to maneuver in a chair.

Lucky Staehly, one of the residents of the Poor-Farm-Turned-Nursing-Home, is commemorated in several pieces of artwork on the walls.  Lucky used a wheelchair and was a “pool shark, ladies’ man and wheelchair racer” – love it!

-If you love the outdoors, see the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, which has good ADA parking, an ADA path called the Trillium Trail and an accessible nature center (, about 20 minutes from downtown Portland.


The Mad River Barn Will Make You Happy

“Hotels make you happy” said Marianne, as she settled into her bed last weekend at The Inn at the Mad River Barn in Waitsfield, Vermont.  She might be right – at least, in a hotel like this one!DSC02884

The Mad River Barn is under new ownership, and they’ve lovingly restored this old inn, including accessibility in these areas:  guest room (sleeps three) and bath on the first floor, parking, pathways and front entrance, indoor dining area, outdoor patio and restaurant bathroom.DSC02873

The aesthetic is both modern and re-purposed.  The furniture lines are clean and the inn is uncluttered, and yet there is something interesting at every turn, from the old door shellacked and hung as art, to the wall signs made of brightly painted sprockets and the bathroom fixtures made of reclaimed pipe joints.  The interior designer, Joanne Palmisano, has two books in print, Salvage Secrets: Transforming Reclaimed Materials Into Design Concepts and Salvage Secrets Design and Decor, both of which are on sale at the front desk or might be available from your library (the first is available through my library).

DSC02899The halls, although they meet ADA standards, left only a little wiggle room for Marianne’s big electric chair, and I was nervous about marring the freshly-painted wood.  (We left not a trace, I’m happy to say.)   A smaller electric chair or a manual chair wouldn’t have an issue at all.

Breakfast was included in the very reasonable room rate of $140/per night, and I loved it that efforts were made to provide farm-fresh, healthy meal choices.    The inn offers dinner as well, a nice choice for families who want to minimize the number of times they get in and out of the car!  The dinner menu met a variety of diets, from the meat-eaters to half-size portions, kid menus, or filling salads.   Vermont has several breweries in hot demand right now, and Mad River Barn serves up some of the best.

My only regret is that the upstairs lounge area is not accessible, and it looks like a lot of fun  with oversized, cozy-looking chairs, a fireplace, game tables and big screen TV.   This is definitely a family-friendly inn, and I hear that plans are underway to create a dog-friendly abode on the property as well.DSC02919

The Mad River Valley is a great destination:

–  Waitsfield is a good base from which to access the many programs that Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports has to offer, both summer and winter.

– Fall foliage season is right around the corner and Vermont’s scenic by-ways include lots of leaf-peeping, quaint covered barns, and idyllic-looking sheep and cows grazing serenely.

– Vermont’s Festival of the Arts runs in Mad River Valley from August 1 through Labor Day, and the Valley Arts Foundation took the time to compile a program that clearly delineates which venues are wheelchair friendly (and kid-friendly too!).

– Check out the  Waitsfield Farmer’s Market on the green in Waitsfield on Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, mid-May through mid-October.

– We loved the Hen of the Wood restaurant in Waterbury when we dined there a couple of years ago.  The Waterbury restaurant is not accessible but the newly-opened Hen of the Wood in Burlington IS accessible.  The only catch is that the new and accessible restaurant is in Burlington, about an hour away. DSC02926

Anchorage, Alaska Is Surprisingly Accessible

IMG_2887Alaska is the home of the grizzly bear, avid fisher-folk, cruise-ship mavens, hipsters and artists, and the highly-caffeinated. It is not, in general, an easy state for a wheelchair-user to navigate, but Anchorage stands out as an oasis.  (In the summer, that is.)

I prefer big hotel chains for accessibility, because they tend to be more predictable. The downtown Hilton Anchorage was bleh and expensive but accessible. (I do, however, thoroughly applaud the usefulness of their website for wheelchair travelers.  If only all hotel websites were this descriptive!)

I would suggest staying downtown, as the sidewalks are wide, wheelchair-friendly, and there are many well-timed pedestrian walk lights (meaning that you can actually get across the street before a rented Jeep or truck with mounted gun-rack mows you down).

You can easily spend a day or two in Anchorage.  Here’s what I’d suggest:

– drink espresso (Kaladi Brothers is accessible and excellent) but skip Side Street Espresso (terrible latte and so-so egg burritos)
– eat the salted caramel ice cream at Fat Ptarmigan (their pizza establishment next door gets great reviews, and they’ve got locally brewed beer too) IMG_2911
– visit the Anchorage Museum (couldn’t peel my 13-year-old from the interactive science displays, had a fantastic meal at Muse in the museum, appreciated the multi-faceted display on Alaskan culture, was transfixed by the earthquake monitor and tsunami display on the second floor; GREAT exhibit on ocean trash, photo below)IMG_2899
– go on Saturday to the Anchorage Market and Festival (it’s accessible and you can find art, jewelry, crafts, clothing, food and more food).  Loved Octopus Ink‘s clothing and crafts (they have a shop and are represented at the Saturday market too — or you can buy online)
– motor or wheel on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (11 miles of views, although check on the status of the bridge before you go; if it’s still out, your trip on pavement will be considerably shorter)IMG_2916
– indulge your inner outdoor-enthusiast and go shopping at 6th Avenue Outfitters

From Anchorage, drive the Seward Highway for some breath-taking views and wheelchair-friendly pull-outs (some even have ADA port-a-potties).  National Geographic published a piece with suggested places to stop on the highway.

DSC_0088Anchorage and its surrounds provide an adventurous day or two (maybe three) if you’re a slow walker or wheelchair-user. Those long daylight hours of summer give you even more time to get around, and the abundance of espresso shops can only help keep you motoring along.


The (Tired and Moody) Modern Hotel, Boise ID

Last year we loved it.  This year: not so much.

The motel seemed tired this year: the rugs in both rooms (we are a family of five so we rent two rooms) were dirty and stained, the walls were marked up and the bathroom countertop in one of the rooms was burned. The staff seem a little jaded too, and at times seemed rather put out that they had to answer a customer.  Two times our room reservation was messed up (I won’t go into all the details here).  If you need an ADA room, there are only two and one (the bigger one) is in front of the bar, which can be very loud at night.

But check out this photo I took.  This is what really soured me on the hotel:


The owner of The Modern Hotel and Bar thought this was a perfectly good spot to park.

The owner of The Modern Hotel and Bar thought this was a perfectly good spot to park.

The car parked oh-so-illegally, in the ADA-defined spaces AND in the cross hatches for minivan entry and egress is the OWNER of the hotel.  There are two ADA-spaces:  one was taken, so we parked in the other.  But because this black car was parked in the cross hatches where the ramp would go, we couldn’t get our daughter out of the car without backing into the road.

When I went to the desk to make them aware that someone was parked in such a way as to impede our daughter’s mobility in the parking lot, they nonchalantly said they’d look into it.  Because I could see the car from our room, I checked back in with them when the car was still parked there 20 minutes later, only to be told that it was the owner of the hotel and she’d be leaving soon.  She didn’t leave “soon.”  And they didn’t seem to really care that their customer wasn’t happy about it.

I met the owner a day later when she was serving me a coffee in the bar.  As she clearly knew who I was, this would have been the perfect time for her to have acknowledged that she had parked – wrongly – in the ADA space.  I wasn’t looking for her to fall on her sword;  I just would have liked to hear her say, “Hey, I didn’t realize the impact I had on someone who needs those spaces.  Sorry.”  That’s all.  Recognition that those spaces are there for those who need them, and not for anyone’s convenience, would have been sufficient.

If you have two good legs, or set of lungs, or heart, then celebrate that.  Walk a few more feet or even several blocks and leave those spaces for someone who needs them.



Why Boise?

My father-in-law, his second wife and their two teenage daughters moved to Boise, ID two years ago.  Our daughter Marianne ADORES her grandfather, but since he moved to Boise, he has become increasingly ill and is now no longer able to travel.  So, we must go to him.

Molly's Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

Molly’s Diner, en route to Boise from Salt Lake City

I guess there is no need for wheelchair-accessible rental vans in Boise, because I can’t find one to rent, despite many hours on the internet and the phone.  So, we fly into Salt Lake City, rent from and begin driving.  In the desert.  For miles on end.  With no sign of a rest area in sight.  In a heat so intense (because it is summer) that the road shimmers.  Or maybe that’s the haze from the raging wildfires in Utah and Idaho….

The good news is that we now have a third driver, our son Pat who just turned 17.  So we decided to add a week, detouring to Wyoming and the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before driving across southern Idaho to spend the second week with our family in the Boise area (see post on Jackson).

I think Boise is pretty hip (not only because of the great number of tattoo parlors one could patronize if one so chose).  It’s not too big and has a young, friendly, outdoorsy vibe.  Although we’ve only been there twice and in the over-100 degree summertime, I think when it’s NOT summer, the weather can be beautiful.  The Boise River runs through the city, and the Boise River Greenbelt (see has 25 miles of paved pathways connecting 850 acres of parks.  Bike shops in town rent bikes, but you can motor in your wheelchair or roller skates too.   Last year, some of us floated down the river in tubes (see – a lot of fun on a hot summer day but not very accessible.

Idaho does have its fair share of rodeos, and we went to the Snake River Stampede last year (  )in Nampa Valley’s Idaho Center.  That was accessible and even better, it was indoors and not too long.  We went in the afternoon for a family event and there is no alcohol served;  it seemed like rather a big deal that there was no alcohol being served which makes me wonder if the evening events rock out and get crazy.  Might be good to see what you’re in for before you commit to an evening rodeo.

If you are there in the summer months (June through September) and appreciate good outdoor theater, then do check out the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (‎).  We’ve seen two great productions there:  (Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd).  The theater is fully accessible, and you can bring your own picnic for outdoor dining.  The setting is really beautiful, and the summer nights are so pleasant once the sun goes down.

I can’t speak personally to this event, but both years we’ve traveled to Boise I’ve hoped to get tickets for the Treasure Valley Rollergirls, an all-female, amateur roller derby:  seems like it’d be a fun evening and not something we’ve seen before.   Check out their website for for tickets and locations:‎.  Please post a comment if you’ve been to a show and recommend it – or don’t recommend it!

Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey (‎) is located on a quiet hilltop close to the city of Boise.  The Center is wheelchair-accessible, full of information, and scenic, set as it is on a quiet prairie-like hill.  They do live demonstrations with owls, falcons, eagles and hawks, and the interpretive displays are informative.

This year on our way from Wyoming, we drove across southern Idaho so that we could go to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve ( and – of course! – the Idaho Potato Museum.

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon, Arco, ID

Craters of the Moon is so weirdly beautiful.  It is 18 miles southwest of Arco (and about a 40-minute drive from Blackfoot, where the Idaho Potato Museum lies). There is a seven-mile loop road, starting at the wheelchair-accessible visitor center.  You can see a lot from the car, and one of the stops on the loop road has a wheelchair-accessible trail.  There is also a campground (on a first-come, first-served basis), and apparently it is cool at night (literally and figuratively).  While we were there, meteor showers were expected at night.

Apparently lava fields cover much of southeastern Idaho, but this national monument has a variety of different volcanic features.  It lies along the Great Rift, a 60-mile fissure in the earth’s crust, which is stretching apart and creating cracks where the lava can ooze out.  It is so worth a trip, although it does feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere.

A feeling compounded by the fact that after leaving the National Park site and driving on to Boise, we drove through miles and miles of barren, barbed-wire-dissected, tracts of land with big signs proclaiming it as the purview of the Idaho National Laboratory.  As I read a little more about it and narrated for my family (stuck in the car with me), I realized: hey, I can’t wait to get out of here!  There have been 52 nuclear reactors built here, according to Moon Guide Books, and 13 are still in operation.  That’s the country’s largest concentration of nuclear reactors and oh, by the way, they are built on top of one of the country’s most geologically active areas AND sits on top of an aquifer that provides drinking and irrigation water for much of southern Idaho.  I really hope they are being careful out there….

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

Idaho National Laboratory, ID

If you don’t mind sticking around the site for a while, you can make a stop in at Environmental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1) , which was the world’s first atomic plant.  It was decommissioned in 1951 but you can take tours (self-guided or guided).  Here’s the website:  I couldn’t talk anyone in my family into it:  I think the Potato Museum and national park did them in, but I’d go.  And you have to get pictures of yourself at Atomic City.  As of the census of 2010, there were 29 people living in Atomic City, and there is one store and one bar.  Denise Kiernan’s book The Girls of Atomic City about young women working during WWII in (what became) Atomic City on the first atomic bomb is on my to-read list (

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

Exhibit from the Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, ID

The Idaho Potato Museum (‎) is small museum located in downtown Blackfoot, in the old Oregon Short LIne Railroad Depot.  You’ll get the history of potato farming and the potato industry, nutritional information on the potato, and trivia galore (including the biggest collection of potato mashers AND Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads that I’ve ever seen).  It’s wheelchair accessible, inexpensive, and at least when we were there, staffed by a very kind and courteous woman!

For the past two years we’ve stayed at The Modern Hotel ( in downtown Boise, in the Linen District.

Restaurants we’ve liked:

  •  The Matador ( is a chain of (very good) Tex Mex food.  Although we brought our kids and it was early (6 pm), there was already a bar vibe going on.  It’s loud and the staff have a little bit of an attitude, but the food is very good and it’s very accessible.  Hmmm, I just noticed that the website doesn’t give prices for the dinner menu;  that’s annoying.  My memory is that it was somewhat on the expensive side for Tex-Mex.
  • Fork ( is near Matador in downtown Boise, and we had a great meal here last year.  You can dine well for about $15 an entree (of course, if your taste runs to Prime Rib, you’re looking at $30 per entree), the service was good, the atmosphere alive but not too loud, and it was wheelchair-accessible.  I’d return.
  •  Tony’s PIzzeria Teatro (no website but see Yelp reviews, is a fun, inexpensive Italian restaurant near The Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise.  Although technically wheelchair-accessible, I don’t think you could truly get your chair indoors.  We sat outside on the patio and had a great antipasto plate and delicious  Neapolitan-style pizzas.  I hear the owner is Italian and makes his own sausages;  whether he does or not, someone here cares about good food at a good price.
  •  Cafe Vicino ( in Boise’s North End serves excellent Italian food in an upscale setting.  We had a fantastic meal there last year with our extended family, and they cheerfully accommodated a wheelchair and a slow-walker, and a big group (there were almost 10 of us).  The food is expensive but worth it for a splurge.
  •  Big City Coffee ( in the Linen District was just down the street from our hotel, The Modern.  It was an easy destination with a wheelchair, both in the ease of motoring down the street and access to the restaurant.  They have a “big” atmosphere and serve very big portions of hearty foods to nourish body and soul.
  • We also liked take-out (or dine-in) at a’Tavola (‎), just across the street from Big City.  The portions are a little smaller (which I prefer) and a little simpler but also, I think, somewhat better.  We liked getting our breakfasts to go from there (although it’s very accessible both for indoor seating and on the patio outside) as well our picnics (also known as car lunches).

Accessible Hotel Review: The Hotel Terra, Teton Village, WY

Although not inexpensive, it has a few things going for it:

  • the accessible parking spots are near the door (so you don’t need valet every   day unless you want it)
  • the outdoor pool is heated and has a chair lift for those who need assistance getting into the pool
  • IMG_2469we were able to create an apartment-like suite by adjoining a single room next to a one-bedroom hotel room that easily accommodated the five of us and our wheelchair.  The suite then had two bedrooms, a Murphy bed, three full bathrooms (one of which was completely accessible), a kitchen (refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, stocked with utensils, dishware and a coffee maker), a living room area that accommodated all of us and a 6-person table.  And the laundry facilities were across the hall from us!IMG_2470
  • there were several dining options, all accessible, nearby;  you could order take-out from all of them and there was a small grocery store (the Mangy Moose)
  • The Aspens, an organic supermarket, was down the road a few miles and is accessibleIMG_2504
  • very close to the southern entrance of Grand Teton National Park
  • close to Jackson
  • just before I left, I was on The Hotel Terra website and saw a 30% discount on hotel rooms for some of the dates we were there;  I called and they applied the discount to our entire stay.  Nice!
  • concierge service was very helpful in researching wheelchair accessibility for activities and restaurants

What I didn’t like about The Hotel Terra:

  • there was a big gap, maybe two inches from the entrance to the door jamb, which was awkward for Marianne to manuever over in her wheelchair (she got a little stuck sometimes)
  • there were only three or four accessible parking spaces, and it doesn’t seem like enough
  • the Mangy Moose store is not wheelchair-accessible
  • the restaurants are expensive, and it was impossible to get a reservation at Calico, a highly-recommended restaurant near The Aspens, or Q Roadhouse (right next to Calico), which were more affordable
  • the pool is small – really small
  • there are two buildings;  we opted to stay in the main building which had the cafe in the lobby, a restaurant in the lobby, the pool and the gym.  But the accessible room overlooks the Teton Village courtyard, which has a water fountain that attracts small, excited – and, when the jets go off randomly, shrieking – children.  And sound does carry in this valley….